My photos look a little out of focus today. Kind of psychedelic. Or is it just me? The sky is an odd color. A rainy, dark day. But color starting as the trees adjust to winter.
I actually got a story published this week. No money but think of the fame! The notoriety!
Today is also gloomy and rainy. But that’s okay. We need rain. Rain is good. Winter is coming.
I read today that scientists think mammals will die out in 250 million years. All the land masses will collide, the sun will get brighter, and carbon dioxide will rise. We will suffocate and melt. I wonder if we will really last that long. Will we morph into something else? Will another species thrive on the new atmosphere? Will we build bio-domes like our science fiction writers predict? It is hard to imagine what 250 million years looks like. The dinosaurs roamed the earth for 165 million years and then all blew up about 65 million years ago. Mammals showed up about 225 million years ago. So we are almost half way through our time here. On the other hand the earth itself is 4.5 billion years old. We are but blips in time. It’s like democracy in Russia. A nanosecond. Apparently Earth has another 4 billion years to go. Don’t think I’ll be around to see it.
I’m reading Isabel Allende’s memoirs and in it she mentions the filming of The House of Spirits. I never knew it was made into a movie so I watched it last night. It was star studded, Vanessa Redgrave, Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons, Glenn Close, Antonio Banderas, Winona Ryder, and a million other people. Of Love and Shadows is another one of her books that was made into a movie. I haven’t read that one but looks interesting.
I read that people who are optimistic and have positive thoughts on aging tend to live longer. I’m feeling positive I am aging.
A friend just found out he is going to Burundi for work. The poorest nation in the world. The most unhappy nation in the world. I first heard about Burundi during the Hutu-Tutsi genocide of the 1990’s. So I have been trying to find positive things about it. It is in the African Great Lakes region bordering on Lake Tanganyika. This is what I found.
An Englishwoman in India, The Memoirs of Harriet Tytler 1828-1858 Edited by Anthony Sattin
Harriet wrote her memoirs when she was in her late 70’s. She was a Victorian woman and represented her class and period well.
Her grandfather and uncle were prisoner’s of war in France under Napoleon. Her grandmother and mother lived nearby for 15 years so the family could be together. After the battle of Waterloo, they were released and returned to England. That is where her mother met her father while he was on furlough from India.
Harriet was born in 1828 to a British military family in India. At 11 years old, as was common practice at the time, she was shipped off to England with two younger siblings to continue her education. When they landing in England, their clothes were so outdated everybody laughed at them. Her brother was immediately sent on to boarding school where two older brothers were waiting for him. She and her sister lived with a family they had never met before for about a year, until her aunt came to collect them. Her aunt was strict and cruel and Harriet hated every minute of her time there.
At seventeen she started her journey back to India to be reunited with her parents who she had not seen for 6 years. She traveled by steamer and by land until she reached Aden just off the Red Sea. The group traveling with her were friendly and she had a happy time. At Aden she received a letter from her brother-in-law in India and feared her sister was sick. It was worse, her father was dead. When she finally reached Calcutta, there was nobody to meet her. She saw her mother two weeks later only to discover that she was on her way back to England with the younger children. Harriet was to stay with another aunt and uncle who was serving the in Punjab Campaign.
At 19, she met and married Robert Tytler, a Captain in the British Army who was also a widower with two children.
This woman did not have an easy life.
On May 11, 1857, she was living in Delhi, eight months pregnant with two small children at home. That was the day of the Great Sepoy Mutiny. The “Sepoy” was the Indian soldier serving in the British Army.
“It is wonderful to think how unanimous they were, Hindus and Mohammedans, in the one object of exterminating the hateful Christian in India. On this occasion the Mohammedans and Hindus were one, their bitter antagonism to each other, which had always been our safeguard so far, was for the time overcome. The gullible Hindus, two to one in each regiment, firmly believed Prithee Rai’s raj would return and then they would be masters of India. The wily Mohammedans, who were using these poor deluded men as a cat’s paw, encouraged the belief, knowing all along that they would soon find their mistake, for the Mohammedan meant to reign by the edge of his sword, which would also be used to proselytize the poor idol worshippers.”
However Philip Mason notes in the Introduction: “Harriet, of course, like everyone else, has heard of the cartridges (smeared with pork and beef fat) but does not seem to have known that the original offensive cartridges were withdrawn (therefore confirming that the rumor was true). Like every other young wife in India at the time, she thinks that the Mutiny was a deep-laid plot, instigated by the sons of the king and spread by wicked Muslims who played on the fears of the simple gullible Hindus.”
Harriet ran for her life that day. She, pregnant, with her two children, 2 and 4 years old, eventually loaded themselves onto an already overloaded carriage and rode hard out of town. Her husband riding back and forth checking on other people. The carriage broke to pieces. They found another one, it also broke down. They ended up walking to the next outpost where luckily there was no uprising.
Eventually the British took back Delhi. Harriet bore 10 children, 8 of whom lived, and spent the rest of her life and expat in India.
Here We Are & There We Go: Teaching & Traveling with Kids in Tow by Jill Dobbe
Jill and her husband were school teachers in Wisconsin USA when one day they moved half way around the world and their lives changed drastically.
What truly amazed me about this book was that they just jumped headlong into it with no safety net and blinders off. They made the decision to move to Guam almost on a whim. They didn’t even know where Guam was. That was either very gutsy or completely crazy. And what was even more interesting was that they stuck it out, learned, and grew through it all.
It didn’t sound like Guam was the dream South Pacific location we all imagined. It actually sounded pretty challenging. But they worked through it and learned a lot. That made their next posting to Singapore a bit easier. Of course Singapore was probably not a hardship posting. But they were still half way around the world from family and friends in a place with a different culture. They seemed to breeze through that one.
By the time the got to Ghana they were seasoned travelers. Although, having lived in Nigeria myself, I know that Ghana was probably not paradise either. But as they came to understand, there are wonderful things all over the world. You just have to be open to them. Jill and her family discovered the joy, frustration, sorrow, and unending surprises one finds when traveling.
I might be reading something into this but it seemed to me they decided to return to the USA for the sake of the children. Their children spent their high school years (or most of them) in the USA learning to be US citizens. This probably made it a much easier transition for them in the long run. It might have given them a clear identity at a young age. However, from my experience, it doesn’t work. My son returned to the USA when he was six and now that he is about to enter college all he dreams about is going overseas. And it seems their children were the same. They were happy to continue traveling.
Returning to the USA was a difficult transition for all of them. Jill says she realized people were not interested in her stories and could not relate. I know exactly what she means. It is so far from what people know, it is difficult to imagine and therefore not interesting. Re-entry is a challenge for all expats but travelers know how to adjust and tweak and adapt. Jill and her family were no exception. They had a good few years back home with friends and family but the itch was still there.
At the end of the book they leave the USA again for distant lands and new experiences. Jill has written two more books: Only in India: Adventures of an International Educator and Kids, Camels & Cairo.
When I had the genius idea to move my blog away from WordPress and it all blew up on me, I lost a bunch of stuff. One thing I finally got around to working on was the TCK/EXPAT Films and Books Page. A lot of my book reviews were no longer linked to anything. Amazingly enough, I do have some of them backed up on my computer. I wrote this a while ago but I am resurrecting it because I just finished her second book, Five Flights Up. I will write a review of that later.
There has been much discussion lately about the term “trailing spouse” and whether it is appropriate or even polite. It projects a sense of “other” rather than something that makes up a whole. I usually conger up a vision of a dog’s tail. Other terms being used are “accompanying partner”, “expat wife”, “support partner”. One blogger says she had been called a ‘stakeholder at home’.
But in the end, whatever you call it, the trailing spouse is usually the support system, the glue that holds it all together. Sometimes the glue falls apart and life can be rough.
In Trailing: A Memoir by Kristin Louise Duncombe, things fall apart. Kristin grew up all over the world so when she met her Argentine husband, the thought of moving overseas didn’t seem so strange. Although she did have her reservations about putting her career on hold, she didn’t have a passion about what she did and had not clearly defined what she wanted to do. Her husband, a doctor with Doctors Without Borders was passionate about what he did and had no questions about what he was going to do. She was in love. She married him and went to Kenya.
Being a TCK (Third Culture Kid) myself, I also thought following my husband overseas would be no problem. Even though you have lived in many places around the world, the child TCK and the Adult TCK have different experiences and challenges. I had no support system behind me as we just up and moved. Kristin had a small “family” of doctors but it did not help much since most of them were single and always on the road. Her husband was gone much of the time.
On the other hand, I think she showed remarkable resilience. She found herself some work at a Nairobi hospital helping teens and eventually found a position with USAID at the US Embassy. Unfortunately the Embassy was bombed and she lost her job but by that time her husband had taken a position in Uganda. After having a baby, she finds a job in a small village outside Kampala. She never sees her husband and the marriage starts to unravel.
The happy ending is they move to Paris and she manages to set up a successful counseling practice working with expat families who are trying to cope with life overseas. She now has all the tools after having gone through the worst of it in order to be able to help others in similar situations.
I found myself identifying with this book on several levels. I had a difficult adjustment when I moved to Russia. I had to find my own way as my husband was out much of the time and I didn’t speak the language. I managed to find work, I had a child, my marriage started to unravel. I found my way and started writing and wrote a memoir.
Trailing: A Memoir is well written and engaging. It makes me want to know more about her. It is available on Amazon.com.
I read a couple of books this week and enjoyed them.
Girl Uprooted By Lena Lee
Girl Uprooted is a memoir about a woman who grew up internationally mobile. Her father was a Korean diplomat and they moved every three years. She lived in Korea, Malaysia, USA, France, Norway and went to University in UK. Not only did she have to deal with the constant moves with new schools, new culture, new friends, but she was also dealing with trying to uphold and relate to her parents’ culture and all things Korean. A true Third Culture Kid. It is hard enough to cope with all the changes but when your passport culture is constantly creating contradictions, it becomes hard to know who you are or what to do.
Lena Lee tried to be a good Korean girl and live up to her father’s expectations but she was not a product of his environment. She didn’t understand what made him tick. The culture he grew up in was very strict and almost oppressive. She was used to running around New Jersey doing the teenage girl stuff Westerners indulge in. When she goes back to Korea, she feels like she is in prison, constantly studying and controlled.
For me the best part of the book was her “aha” moment when she googled frequent moves during childhood and depression. I had a similar “aha” moment when I realized I was not crazy and not the only person in the world who had difficulty relating to my passport country. Moving is hard enough, but moving countries, cultures, schools, and languages can really confuse a child. Plus in some of her countries he also had the racism card to deal with. People have different coping mechanisms. Some are alcohol and drug abuse, some are god, some are sports, some are withdrawal.
As we get older and start to understand who we are and what it means to be a Third Culture Kid, it does start to get easier. Lena Lee eventually found her center and as she states in her book, writing her book helped her a lot. When I wrote my book I found it very cathartic.
This book is well written, easy to read and relatable.
Pick up a copy!
Another book I read recently was
Black Cake By Charmaine Wilkerson
This one was fiction about a girl who grew up on the “Islands”, somewhere in the Caribbean. It is really a mystery. The girl’s mother disappears when she is young and she is left with her father who is constantly racking up gambling debts. When she is forced to marry a rich man in order to save her father, the man drops dead at the wedding reception. She flees the scene and everybody assumes she killed him. From then on she is on the run looking over her shoulder. There are lots of twists and turns, some good, some bad. Some unbelievable.
It is easy to read and moves along quickly. I read it in one sitting. It starts out in the mid 1950’s and goes to present day. The girl’s father was ethnic Chinese and her mother was African. Apparently there were a lot of Chinese who settled in Jamaica and other islands. The Chinese arrived as indentured servants around the mid 1800s. In the 1960’s the Chinese owned land and shops but endured racial tensions.
The Black Cake is a traditional fruit cake made for special occasions. The recipe is included at the back of the book.
As the Mississippi River flows south it bends and turns. At Red Wing, it flows around a wide corner and down into Lake Pepin. Fun fact: Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in Pepin, Wisconsin and in her books she and other members of her family visit Lake Pepin. In one book they cross the frozen lake in a covered wagon.
However, yesterday was a beautiful summer day and we had a great view of the river and surrounding countryside from the top of a bluff.
Downtown Red Wing is full of sculptures and interesting old buildings.
The King in Exile, The Fall of the Royal Family of Burma by Sudha Shah I just finished reading this excellent book about the last king of Burma (Myanmar). It is well researched and full of details about the times and about the family up until modern day. The last King of Burma, King Thibaw, was deposed by the British in 1885, and exiled to Ratnagiri on the west coast of India. He, his two wives and four daughters lived in a small palace basically as prisoners. He was not allowed to leave his house without permission. He was given a small allowance to live on and pretty much ignored. His sad life ended in 1916. Three years later his queen (his second wife died before him) and daughters were allowed to return to Burma but only to the capital of Rangoon, not to their former home in Mandalay. Two of the daughters remained in India and two went back to Burma with their mother. The saga continues through their children and grandchildren. It was not a happy life and a constant struggle to meet their debts. Although it is non-fiction and historical, it is not dull. The author does a good job to hold your interest.
Other books about Burma: The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh This book is historical fiction about the same time period as The King in Exile. It goes into the fate of the king but also tells the story of colonialism in the area covering Burma, India and Malaya. I read it a while ago and remember I did skim over parts of it but I also remember it really captured the deposed king’s despair. If you like historical fiction sagas that have it all, you would probably love this one.
The Golden Land by Elizabeth Shick This is pure fiction about a Burmese American woman who goes back to Burma in search of her roots, her childhood, her family. She has memories of spending time in Burma twenty five years earlier and a boy who influenced her. She returns looking for her sister but also for him. It has suspense, intrigue, love, history, politics. It is a good read. Interestingly enough it is the first book written by a serial expat who lived in Burma for six years.
Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig This one came highly recommended to me. I have not read it yet. It tells the story of a family and their eldest daughter who wins the first Miss Burma beauty pageant. The beauty pageant was held from 1947 to 1962 when the government banned it. (Interesting fact, one of King Thibaw’s grandsons started the beauty pageant. I learned about that in The King in Exile). This book is about an ethnic Karen woman who struggles with her new fame, civil war and unstable politics of the time.
Golden Earth: Travels in Burma byLewis Norman Shortly after World War II, Lewis Norman travels throughout Burma documenting all he sees. It was a very unstable time in Burma with insurgents running around killing people. He writes about the politics but also about the people and the beauty of the land. He went there specifically because he was afraid it was a county that would be closed to outsiders at some point soon. He was right.
The Lady from Burma by Allison Montclair This is a murder mystery I came across by accident. It probably doesn’t have anything to do with Burma but looks like a real nail biter.
And if you are interested…. Aung San of Burma: A Biographical Portrait by His Daughter by Aung San Suu Kyi Aung San was the man who made Burmese independence from the British possible. He is a revered hero in Burma. This is non-fiction.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s opposition leader and Nobel Prize winner has written several books about her plight and that of Burmas itself.
You can now travel to Burma as a tourist and many tour groups have trips going there. They mostly go to Rangoon (Yangon), Mandalay, Inlye Lake, and Pagan (Bagan). I was born in Burma to a expat parents and my family lived there off and on until the coup of 1962.
As of July 2023, the US State Department travel advisory page states: Do not travel to Burma due to civil unrest and armed conflict. Reconsider travel to Burma due to limited and/or inadequate healthcare resources. Exercise increased caution due to wrongful detentions and areas with land mines and unexploded ordnance.
I had a birthday recently and decided to take myself to go see “Barbie”. I was hoping for some fun escapism. Well… it was entertaining but it was also a story of a major existential crisis. So I’m conflicted. Not sure I liked it. But Ryan Gosling was excellent as Ken.
I can be conflicted about birthdays in general. Some good, some bad. Some have associations I don’t care for. Some happy occasions.
My mother writes about the menu for my second birthday: hunks of cheese, slices of bananas with peanut butter dabs all on a toothpick, tiny buns filled with ground spam, graham crackers with honey butter, and then cupcakes with a candle on each, coffee and Koolade. Sounds like an exotic ‘50s meal, doesn’t it?
My fifth birthday was memorable because the family had just survived a plane crash and landed at our final destination two weeks late – on my birthday. Another memorable one was in Lagos, Nigeria when my mother and I marked the occasion by opening a small tinned chocolate cake. They probably don’t make such a thing anymore…
In 1999, the last year of the millennium, I spent my birthday in France. We stayed with friends in the suburbs who had a house and small yard and a son our son, Noah’s age. They were about a ten minute walk from the train in a nice little village with a pretty chateau. The first day was spent getting our new visas organized and trying to do some shopping. On Saturday we wandered around the left bank and then the four adults went out to dinner at a very nice kind of ‘new’ French restaurant. It was my birthday so we had champagne and wine and great food. Sunday was the boat ride on the Seine with the boys and then a walk through the Tuileries garden where there just happened to be some rides and of course Noah had to go on them.
We rented a car and on Tuesday left for Metz and the eclipse. Metz is a very pretty town right on the river. We scoped out the area on Tuesday and early Wednesday morning we headed out with the telescope, video camera and other cameras. We set up our camp in the middle of the Esplanade which is a nice park right by the river. The town had organized a big festival around the eclipse and so there were parades, music, etc. going on all day long. It was cloudy. During the first half of the eclipse we were able to see it off and on. But about 20 minutes before total eclipse it started to rain. We could tell when the total was, though, because it was completely dark. It was really cool. All the flowers closed up and all the lights came on and it was really night. Then during the second half it cleared up a bit and we were able to see more. Noah kept looking at the “moon” through his glasses. Nicholas got some good shots through his telescope. And I got a new umbrella. When we got back to Paris our friends who had gone 25 minutes north of Paris on the train said they had seen the whole thing perfectly.
From Metz we drove into Lorraine and the Vosges area. We stopped at the Haut Konningburg castle which is a huge restored castle on top of a mountain in the middle of the forest. You can see forever from it. It is really cool with a moat and drawbridge and inner yard. It would be very hard to penetrate it.
From there we wound our way around down to La Bresse which is in the heart of a big ski area and lots of mountains and forest. Really beautiful. Our hotel was very nice with a good restaurant. We drove all around the area and went hiking around a glacial pool where Noah spent the better part of an hour throwing rocks into it.
On Sunday (the day before Noah’s birthday) we took the boys to the Bois de Bologne to the big amusement park there and I think they went on about 20 rides. They had a lot of fun.
Our last day in Paris we had lunch up at Montmartre with all the tourists in town. It was kind of fun.
There has been a lot of talk about Artificial Intelligence lately. I’m sure it has been in use for a long time but it is now going more mainstream. I spoke to a woman recently who said she uses it regularly to make her work emails better. So I looked into it a bit and discovered it is being used all over the place. AI self published books on Amazon. So I thought – why not AI blog? I asked it to write a paragraph on third culture kids. Then I asked it to write a short story about it. And a poem.
They are actually pretty good in a mainstream, very positive, very Disney kind of way. The poem actually made me laugh – “Oh, Third Culture Kid, a soul so bright, You’re a constellation in the night, Your journey shapes a tale to tell, Of how diverse hearts together swell.”
Obviously not my style but interesting. I can see why it is popular. Why it will rule the world. Why we will become the robots. Is it the end of civilization as we know it? What do you think?
Write a paragraph about Third Culture Kids
Third Culture Kids (TCKs) are a unique and fascinating group of individuals who have spent a significant part of their developmental years living in cultures different from their parents’ or their passport country’s culture. As a result of this cross-cultural upbringing, TCKs often acquire a distinct identity that combines elements from multiple cultures, creating a “third culture” of their own. These global nomads are skilled at navigating diverse environments, adapting quickly to new situations, and embracing diversity with an open mind. While their upbringing offers enriching experiences and a broader worldview, it can also bring challenges in terms of forming lasting connections and a sense of belonging. Nevertheless, the resilience and cultural competence that TCKs develop make them invaluable assets in our increasingly interconnected and globalized world.
Write a short story about this
Title: Roots of the World
Once upon a time, in a small, bustling town, there lived a young girl named Maya. Her parents were diplomats, and as a result, she had spent her childhood traveling from one country to another. Maya had grown accustomed to saying goodbye to friends and embracing new cultures with each move, and she had become what was known as a Third Culture Kid.
At the age of ten, Maya found herself in a picturesque village nestled among the Swiss Alps. As she explored her new surroundings, she couldn’t help but feel a sense of wonder and excitement. The village was filled with colorful houses, friendly faces, and enchanting traditions she had never experienced before.
Despite her natural adaptability, Maya sometimes felt a sense of longing for a place she could call her own—a place where her roots could grow deep. Nevertheless, she embraced each day, eager to learn about the world from different perspectives.
One day, while wandering through the local market, Maya stumbled upon a quaint antique shop run by an elderly woman named Agnes. Intrigued by the unique artifacts on display, Maya struck up a conversation with Agnes. They quickly discovered that they both had a shared love for adventure and exploration.
As the weeks passed, Maya and Agnes developed a deep bond, akin to a grandmother and granddaughter. Agnes had lived her entire life in the village and was enchanted by Maya’s stories of far-off lands and diverse cultures. She saw in Maya the spirit of a true adventurer, someone who cherished the beauty of each unique place she encountered.
One snowy winter evening, as they sat by the crackling fireplace, Agnes shared a heartfelt story about her own youthful dreams of traveling the world. Fate had tied her to the village, but she found immense joy in living vicariously through Maya’s adventures.
Moved by Agnes’ story, Maya realized that she didn’t need to have a single, fixed place to call home. She understood that her experiences and the connections she made with people around the world had become the roots that anchored her to the essence of humanity.
As the years passed, Maya continued to explore new countries, gaining wisdom and insight along the way. She would visit Agnes whenever she returned to the Swiss village, and their friendship remained as strong as ever. Maya cherished her upbringing as a Third Culture Kid, embracing her unique identity with pride.
In time, Maya became a renowned journalist, using her understanding of diverse cultures to bridge gaps and promote understanding worldwide. She wrote about the beauty of unity in diversity and the importance of embracing one’s own roots while celebrating the roots of others.
Maya’s story resonated with people from all walks of life, inspiring them to be more accepting, empathetic, and curious about the world around them. And as she continued her journey, she knew that her heart was connected to all the places she had been, for they were the roots of the world that made her who she was—a true Third Culture Kid.
Write a poem about this
In a world of wanderers, a soul takes flight, A Third Culture Kid, in the vibrant night, With roots that span the globe’s embrace, In each new land, a sacred space.
From distant shores to mountains grand, They roam with wonder, hand in hand, Their heartstrings tied to many lands, A tapestry woven by diverse hands.
Through bustling streets and tranquil dells, They gather stories that their heart tells, From desert dunes to oceans blue, They find the beauty in what’s new.
They bear no burden of fixed abode, For in their heart, the world’s bestowed, A mosaic of cultures, rich and deep, A treasure trove they’ll forever keep.
In every smile, a tale unfolds, Of friendships formed and dreams that hold, A legacy built on bonds so rare, In lands they’ve loved, they’ve left their care.
They know that home’s not just one place, But rather, a feeling they embrace, In every corner of this earth, They find a sense of joy and mirth.
For in their soul, they’ve come to see, The unity in humanity, A bridge between the worlds they stand, A beacon shining through the land.
Oh, Third Culture Kid, a soul so bright, You’re a constellation in the night, Your journey shapes a tale to tell, Of how diverse hearts together swell.
Embrace your roots, both near and far, For in their dance, you’ll find your star, In every culture’s tender grace, You’ll weave a world, a boundless space.
In the continuing saga of my mother’s letters from Burma, 1955… The family took a trip from Pyinmana to Kalaw for a mini vacation. Kalaw is in the mountains so cooler than Pyinmana (and of course was where the British spent their holidays in colonial times). Traveling in those days and places was not an easy task.
“We started out from here last Wednesday morning at 7:30 – The Hewitts and Doss, our bearer, in their jeep, and us and Doss’s mother (who lives near Kalaw) in our jeep. Kalaw is about 160 miles northeast of Pyinmana. In true Burma traveling fashion, we had our water, coffee, lunch, soap, and all other necessities right along with us. Hewitts even took an extra 5 gallons of gasoline, but we passed three oil stations between here and Kalaw, so used up the gas and thew the smelly can away. Since our jeeps are new, we did not bother to take extra tires and parts, as people do who travel in older vehicles.
The worst part of the road is the first 20 miles north of Pyinmana, and that wasn’t nearly as bad as I had been expecting, so rather enjoyed even that. The roads are only one car width with all passing vehicles putting one set of wheels on the often muddy and always rutty shoulders. One bridge was out, but there was a definite rut around that was passable. This end of the trip is in the arid valley and very dry and hot. Not much vegetation – sort of like scrub-brush land at home. There are no fences along the roads, no road signs to speak of, and certainly no billboards or advertising of any sort. We didn’t see a single real automobile – only jeeps, a few station wagons, many trucks all overloaded and often in a dilapidated condition, pony carts, bullock carts (which often have a separate rut on the shoulder), and lots of pedestrians; besides herds of cattle, ponytailed sheep, goats and water buffalo grazing over the roads. As I say, there were three oil stations – one at Tacon, one at Meiktila and one at Thazi – all without restrooms! We got to Meiktila, about 90 miles from Pyinmana, about 11am and ate our lunch in a sort of park on the highway mid the stares of many local people. Then we headed east toward the Shan States and the mountains. The road starts to rise and we found lush jungle growth on all sides with a big snake slithering across the road once, monkeys chattering, flowering teak trees, and perfectly gorgeous views on occasion. The roads are not so bumpy, but are still without fences or barriers of any kind, and passing one of those big trucks on a sharp mountain curve often made one catch one’s breath! We arrived in Kalaw (rhymes with guffhaw) about 2:30 after making excellent time. (Note: 7 hours to go 160 miles was considered excellent time.)
The main attraction in the hill areas besides the cool weather and lovely scenery is the interesting bazaars where the different hill tribes sell their crops and handicrafts. These hill tribes are very colorful and usually quite friendly. I am always interested in their jewelry which is solid silver usually in the form of heavy bracelets or heavy large earrings. One tribe of interest is the one in which the women wear brass bracelets just below the knee. I’m sure these must be painful at times – especially if the woman has gained weight, for they are soldered on and never taken off. These people make lovely trinkets out of silver which they sell, and also very interesting and pretty baskets of different designs and uses. You may be sure we came home well-stocked with jewelry and baskets – as well as delicious fresh vegetables and a bunch of blue orchids which we hope to grow here.
On Saturday evening we were invited to Kingswood School – a Methodist Mission boarding school, also a day school. A friend of ours, the minister’s wife from Rangoon, was running it for a few months until a regular headmistress arrives from the States, and so she wanted us to see the school and get to know some of the children. We found the school to be a beautiful place with fine brick buildings set in the hillside amid more beautiful flowers. It conforms to government standards for schools and prepares children for entering the University of Rangoon. It’s teachers are all very well qualified and the Christian atmosphere, although most of the children are not Christian, is a very fine influence besides being very pleasant. Pre-war the school was filled to capacity but now with the troubled times there are only 30 boarders but almost 300 in the day school. I feel sure now that the internal trouble in this country is diminishing, Kingswood will regain its former popularity. After dinner that evening we played games with the children and then all sat around the fireplace (with a real fire) and sang songs, ending with a prayer to the tune of Brahms’s Lullaby. It was a lovely evening for all of us.
Most of these bazaars are what we call “a five day bazaar” which means the hill people come into town once every five days, and that is the big bazaar when all the place is full of products for sale. It happened the big day was on Sunday – the day we left to return to Pyinmana – but we got up early and went bazaaring before we started for home. Our trip home was uneventful and we drove in here about 3:30 pm.
There was just one blot on our otherwise delightful holiday – while we were bazaaring in a little village not far from Kalaw one morning, a dog bit Bill on the leg. Since we do not know the dog and have no way of seeing it within a week or ten days to know if it has died of rabies poor Bill will have to take the 14 rabies shots to be sure! They are perfectly terrible to take, but we can’t take the chance, for dogs with rabies are very prevalent in this country and everyone takes the shots if there is any question at all. But I guess we should be glad that such shots are available and that we know enough to take them.“
I wonder if the trip is very different today. They stayed at the Kalaw Heritage Hotel, built in 1903, the second oldest hotel in Myanmar – still there today (pictured above in 1955).
This week I took a trip to the MIA (Minnesota Institute of Arts) museum to see “Eternal Offerings, Chinese Ritual Bronzes”. The bronzes were from the museum collection but the display was what made the show. It was very atmospheric. At first I felt disoriented. It was dark and there were mirrors and “pools” and silks blowing in the wind. Once my eyes adjusted and I figured it all out, it was impressive. The rooms were Setting the Scene, An Animistic World, Temple, Ritual, Banquet, Rule of Propriety, Coming Full Circle.
Rule of Propriety
Like I said, atmospheric…
It is kind of snowing, sleeting, slushing today. Winter’s last hurrah.